Fitness in Motherhood goes way beyond the stereotypical need to “get our bodies back”. It goes beyond a jean size or getting back in a bathing suit. The physical and mental benefits of exercise are no secret. And I’m not just talking one form of exercise over another.
From yoga to weight training, from Peleton to a brisk walk around the park. We know it is important to move our bodies. But how the heck do we navigate fitting in regular exercise into what seems like an already full agenda?
From the time that child comes into our lives, however that happens, they are priority numero uno. If you have other children, you become even further down the list. Add in other things like the house, laundry (which has now grown), your partner’s needs and possibly a job or schooling, the idea of you leaving the house to complete what used to resemble a quality workout seems impossible.
Fitness Goes Beyond our Appearance
Before we dive into HOW to fit exercise back into our routines, I find it important for individuals to find their “why”. If we break down our reasoning for why this may be important to prioritize, we have a better driving force to make it happen. It has to go beyond a number on the scale.
Some common “whys” I have either heard from clients or that I myself have learned as a mother:
• Keeping up with the kiddos. To meet the demands of
• Connection to your former self- Athletic background etc
• Control over their bodies when they may have felt out of control
• Me time
• Longevity- wanting to be here for our kids and grandkids
Now that we have the “whys” narrowed down, we also need to acknowledge the “what” that tends to be standing in our way.
• We have a body that is different
• Sleep Deprived
• Mental and Physical Exhaustion
As mothers, it can be very hard to put ourselves first. We are also fed a lot of mistruths about what fitness looks like. We wait for an ideal that most likely will not come for quite some time. It doesn’t need to look perfect all the time. And rarely will it be.
How to Start
First, take a look at what you are currently doing. Is it one day? Is it two?
Do you have the ability to add a day? I like people to find 2 days minimum to move. The idea of minimums gives us some accountability while providing a grace window. When we aim too high too fast, we feel like we failed if we don’t hit it.
In this season, especially during the younger years, our bodies typically need a little LESS. We are stressed. Moms lack proper recovery with a lack of sleep. If we are breastfeeding, your body is providing nourishment to that young life. If you have other children, well you haven’t slept or rested in quite a while! Too intense of an exercise schedule can add more stress on the body it can’t handle. Less can be more. So start with those minimums. Work towards your ideal in small increments.
Your choice in what that movement looks like will depend on your goals and maybe your past fitness interests and experiences. The purpose of this is not to break down what exercise is best or fits someone’s goals. It is about how to prioritize a little time for yourself and your health.
After Your Minimum Days Are Set
Now that we have our minimums set, we need to decide how those 2 (or more) days will be spent. If those 2 days require you to go somewhere, find the day and time that it makes the most sense to leave. A day that your partner comes home earlier from work. Maybe a day that a caregiver can come over.
While I know that exercise CAN and sometimes MUST happen with the little monkeys running around you, I am also a firm believer in the idea of having that undivided attention to yourself, your body and your mind.
So much of fitness and exercise comes back to our mindset that it helps to not be stopping 10x during a 30 minute time period.
Make those minimum days uninterrupted days, less negotiable. ( I said less, not non).
Even if it is not a gym you are going to, have that time to be in another room ALONE. Time to ride alone. Rollerblade with a favorite podcast or soundtrack cranking. There are plenty of online streaming options to follow along with a boot camp or yoga class.
The Other Days of Movement
This leaves some other days as optional movement days and allows them to be done with kiddos in tow.
As moms, our kids fulfill us. We enjoy being with them. As a baby, they can lay next to your workout space. Maybe use those brief sleep/nap times as your workout time.
Have older kids? There isn’t anything wrong with having them along for a walk, a jog or bike ride. Encourage them to pull up a mat during a yoga session in the living room. Have them squat and do push-ups next to you. Some of my earliest memories of fitness and activity was doing step aerobics next to my mom, her in her leotard and me in my bathing suit using the couch as my “step”.
Let that sink in.
It won’t be perfect. It won’t look like it did pre-kids. Eventually, it may. Maybe it doesn’t have to. If you are someone that didn’t have that as a routine before kids, but having some new “whys” has compelled you to want to start into a routine:
• Start Small
• Set Minimums
• Find ways to incorporate the kids
• Use built in times like naps, early bed times, before they wake
• Communicate with your partner the importance of those
• Give yourself GRACE on the days it doesn’t work out. There is